Not the Best But Better Than the Rest

“Not the Best, but Better Than the Rest”

“The method of choosing the president proved to be But one of many vexing problems for the fifty-five men who assembled in Philadelphia in May 1887” (Euchner, and Maltese 2). Our forefathers were faced with many hard decisions that would have repercussions for the next two centuries. One of the most perplexing problems facing them was the question of how to elect a president. They had to choose from three main systems: elect the president by congress, the people, or electors. There was much debate over this topic in the constitutional convention until eventually the Electoral College system was chosen to elect our president. The Electoral College system has been in place for over 200 years and most Americans are still not sure how it works or if it is the best system. With the 2000 presidential election it became very clear that most US citizens have little understanding of how our president is chosen. The Electoral College is just barely surviving and is under more and more attack all the time. This paper will discuss the presidential election process, its pros and cons, legal aspects, and propose an idea that would improve our current system so it better reflects the will of the people.
It is generally a generally accepted fact that our forefathers felt the best system of electing the president was to allow congress do it. However, if congress was to elect the president, then the president might feel obliged to help congress pass certain laws by not vetoing them. Not only would this would seriously undermine the system of checks and balances already established by the constitutional convention, but it could also open to flood gates for corruption within the US political system. This was the main reason that the delegates chose not to let congress elect the president.
Most of the attendees of the constitutional convention did not believe in the direct vote system, but three prominent delegates did: James Wilson, Gouverneur Morris, and James Madison (Peirce 41). Most delegates did not think that the American democracy had matured enough to offer a direct vote. Not only was the United States a huge country, but the framers of the constitution felt that there was no way that any candidate could gain national reputation. Furthermore, they felt that the general public was uneducated and easily led astray (Peirce 41). Supporters of direct election argued that after all the president’s job is to guard the people from the legislature; therefore the people should select him. Although eventually rejected, the debate over direct election was helpful in seeing some of the pros and cons of this type of election for future reference. When they had seen the pitfalls of these two systems, a third compromising system evolved, the Electoral System.
This compromising system would have electors that were to represent the peoples popular vote in each state. The Electoral College is defined as the “collective name for the electors who nominally choose the president and vice president of the United States” (Electoral College I, 256). They particularly liked this system because it favored the upper class. The elector system was voted down twice, once because the electors had to be chosen by state legislatures, and the other time because the electors to be chosen by direct vote. Finally it was passed under the system of letting state legislatures decide how to choose the electors (Peirce 44). The next problem that faced the framers was how many electoral votes each state would get. Finally they agreed that the number of votes each state would get would be determined by adding the number of senators and the number of representatives together. This idea clearly gave more power to smaller states, but was necessary to protect their rights. Finally they had chosen a system of electing a president. Winston Churchhill later said, "the Electoral College system is probably the worst possible method of choosing a president-except for all the others” (Glennon 3).
As far as the individual states went, they chose three main routes in deciding electors: the legislative system, where state legislatures choose the electors; a district system, where electors are selected by the people of